Claude Littner has been much missed from this year’s series of BBC1’s ever-popular business competition The Apprentice. Having almost lost his leg after a cycling accident in April 2021, the formidable businessman who usually acts as Lord Alan Sugar’s ‘eyes and ears’ alongside Karren Brady, had to pull out of the 16th series.
But in a shock twist, Claude is returning for the penultimate episode of The Apprentice 2022 on BBC1 on Thursday, March 17 at 9pm. It's this year's all-important 'Final Four' interview round, where he’s renowned for tearing the remaining candidates’ business plans to shreds.
Here, Claude Littner, 72, a former chairman of a number of companies, including Lord Sugar’s Amstrad International, tells us more…
How are you feeling after your accident, Claude?
Claude Littner says: "Absolutely fantastic. I’m raring to go and really looking forward to being back for the interview stage of the process."
Was it always the plan to come back for the interviews?
"I’d written off this series, but Lord Sugar and The Apprentice production team had other ideas! Alan arrived at my house one day and said, ‘You will do the interviews, won’t you?’, and I replied, ‘Yes, of course’. The moment it came out of my mouth, I was thinking, ‘How on earth am I actually going to do it?’ Yet by the time it came to filming, I was feeling better and the team went to so much trouble to involve me."
Will you be as tough as ever on the hopefuls?
"I’ve mellowed with age, but it’s important at the interview stage that we really interrogate the finalists. By this stage, the candidates are full of confidence and think they’re brilliant, but Alan’s going to invest in one of these individuals, so it’s important to be thorough. We’ve got a very short space of time to unpick the plans, understand if they can measure up to Alan’s standards and, most importantly, have they got a proposition that’s investable? You can’t expect a mild-mannered, gentle interview, because that’s not the idea."
So we won’t be seeing a softer side to you this year, then?
"All that said, I think the general appetite for being really mean has changed. In this day and age, a change of approach is probably more appropriate and I don’t think I’m as forthright as I once may have come across."
Your surprise appearance will make fans very happy!
"I’ve had so many messages on social media from viewers saying they hope I’m coming back for the interviews and how much they miss my – ahem! – smiling! Obviously, I’ve not been able to say anything until now. I hope everyone thinks it was worth the wait."
What do you think of The Apprentice 2022 series so far?
"I’ve enjoyed it. The candidates have been a mix of outrageous with very little chance of getting investment to the few who emerge over time and viewers can start to see investable qualities."
Tim Campbell, who won the first series of The Apprentice in 2005, has been standing in for you as Lord Sugar’s advisor. Has he done you proud?
"Tim’s done a sterling job. It looks like a pretty easy gig when you’re watching from the comfort of your home, but it really is quite tough. Tim’s coped with all the challenges very well."
Do you agree with Lord Sugar’s firing decisions so far?
"He always makes the right call! It’s difficult because, inevitably, with each episode, you get to the final three in the boardroom, and very often all three have the potential to go! But Alan eventually weeds out the weaker ones and we emerge with a final few, good candidates. Viewers enjoy his entertainment and words of wisdom!"
Will you be back for the next series of The Apprentice in 2023?
"The focus for the moment is about shining the spotlight on the remaining candidates in this series and finding the next successful business for Alan to invest in. But I certainly feel well enough to come back and am very optimistic!"
I'm a huge fan of television so I really have found the perfect job, as I've been writing about TV shows, films and interviewing major television, film and sports stars for over 25 years. I'm currently TV Content Director on What's On TV, TV Times, TV and Satellite Week magazines plus Whattowatch.com. I previously worked on Woman and Woman's Own in the 1990s. Outside of work I swim every morning, support Charlton Athletic football club and get nostalgic about TV shows Cagney & Lacey, I Claudius, Dallas and Tenko. I'm totally on top of everything good coming up too.
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